Learning from Large Cru Movements

July 25, 2012 — 29 Comments

Last Summer I researched the largest Cru movements in America. I narrowed the list down to 8 schools and I called the directors of these movements. In a 30-45 minute phone call I picked their brains on how they operate as a large movement, what elements played into their growth, how they lead as directors, etc.

Talking to the directors of the largest Cru movements was one of THE most beneficial things I’ve ever done: for my growth as a Director and for our movement.

Over the next few blog posts I want to share what I learned.

Largest Cru Movements

Let’s be clear from the start: Size isn’t everything.

Ministry size does not equal ministry success.


Tim Keller asks the question in his excellent (free!) ebook Ministry and Character:

How do we measure how well we are doing in ministry? Is it by mere growth in numbers, or by a faithfulness divorced from all results?

He goes on to explain:

“Being both excessively inflated or overly deflated by visible success is caused largely by pride and a lack of orientation to the gospel. Your worth and identity rises and falls not on being a rescued and loved sinner, but on being an effective minister.”


Ministry size does not determine our occupational or spiritual worth.


BUT, as Cru staff Tim Norman has said:

“There are good reasons why these movements are successful. Some of which others can principally embrace.”


AND, like many of you, we want to get the gospel to every single student on our campus.

This is something we are not just hoping to do, but planning to do.

Here’s what we figure: it will take about 100 trained, motivated, gospel-sharing Bible study leaders to have a shot at reaching the freshman class on our campus (around 4,000 freshmen= 40 freshmen to 1 Bible study leader).


In other words- we’re going to need to build a big enough movement to realistically be able to get the gospel to every student.

It’s not going to happen overnight but, for us, gleaning ideas from other (larger) movements has been the biggest accelerator of growth.


A quick preview of the Large Movements Blog Series

Here’s who I talked to (click the school to read that post):

These Cru ministries have anywhere from 400-1200 students involved.

Many of these directors have seen their movements grow from 50 to over 500 in the past decade.

Why these 8?

These are not necessarily the 8 biggest Cru movements in the nation (but they’re probably in the top 15 – at least as of Summer 2011).

I tried to pick schools from across the U.S. – usually choosing the largest Cru movements from each geographical region.

I focused on traditional staffed campuses (no catalytic or city-wide movements). But since we’re all trying to build movements I think the learnings will be helpful for anyone in college ministry.


In the coming days I will devote a separate post to what I gleaned from each campus as well as some summary posts on:

  • What do Staff Do (how do they spend their time, what role do they play in the movement)?
  • What does the Director do?
  • What contributed to your growth (are there any commonalities)?
  • Top 10 Takeaways from talking to these ministries


If you had to guess, what do you think were the biggest contributors to growing large movements?


photo courtesy of Today is a good day 


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  • Mike Bost

    Very helpful, Tim! Thanks for sharing the wealth.

    Mike Bost

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Mike!

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  • Russ Martin

    Tim, thanks for taking the time to share your learning. I’m learning a lot by interacting with your reports.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Russ

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  • Neil Downey


    Great idea. This will be helpful for a lot of leaders. I’m just bummed that you ignored the Upper Midwest. But that’s OK, we wouldn’t want to make the other movements look bad. 😉

    • Anonymous

      Haha. I did neglect the Upper Midwest didn’t I.
      Maybe y’all need to step your game up : )

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  • Keith Davy

    This is great, Tim. Thanks for proactively going for it — learning & teaching the rest of us as you go! Keep pressing on!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Keith!

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  • Michelle Beckman

    Tim, Keith Davy is telling us all about this in the National Director School. This is awesome.

    • Anonymous

      That’s really cool. Thanks Michelle.

  • Jim kelly

    I agree with Neil D. Would have liked to see what you learn with the upper-midwest as part of research. I think the UMW region has its own unique challenges and could have given good insight. It has also seen dramatic increase in movement sizes in past 5-10 years. Great stuff though and glad you did this for the benefit of us all. Thank you!

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Jim for taking the time to comment!
      Any schools you’d recommend?

  • Chip Martinson

    Hey Tim great insights and thanks for your labor. The Upper Midwest has some rather healthy movements fyi. 🙂 I am curious that none of the 8 movements you mentioned are in an urban setting. What did you find with regards to city movements? In addition these aside from SLO are all “classic” campuses even SLO is for that matter. What did you learn with regards to EFM efforts as they related? Did anyone do that well, ie Ole Miss does great at reaching Greeks did anyone excel at Impact or Epic for example? Just curious. I moved back to UMW after being at the Univ of Miami Fl and it is a “classic” setting in an urban context and as much attn as we are giving to cities I am curious is anyone “winning” at classic campus movement building in city contexts. And Scott Moffatt please dont tell me Gainesville is an urban setting. :0 Thanks again Tim for your insights. I welcome your feedback.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Chip!

      Re: neglecting the UMW: So I’ve heard- the UMW is a vocal group when they feel left out. : )
      What schools would you recommend me talking to in the UMW?

      I intentionally didn’t do any urban/catalytic ministries. Mostly for selfish reasons – I was looking for “classic” campuses to personally learn from since that’s the setting I’m in. Posting/sharing was secondary to learning from others like us. I also didn’t ask a ton about EFM. It definitely came up. But I mostly focused on:
      – Movement growth (how did you grow?)

      – Movement structure (what do staff/student leaders do?)

      I agree it would be very interesting to study campuses that are excelling with EFM or Greeks or Athletes.

      I also would love to learn from those who are winning at building college movements in city contexts. I might work on that some day…

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  • alan mitchell

    Wow Tim. I can’t tell you how helpful this is. I know it took a lot of work, and I for one think this a HUGE contribution to the body of Christ. I’ve been a campus minister for almost 8 years and I haven’t come across anything this helpful in a long time. Thanks again for your hard work, and please let me know if you have anything else like this, or access to any more studies on campus ministers/campus ministries.

    • timcasteel

      Thanks for the encouragement Alan! Seriously- helps make it worth it (taking the time to blog) knowing that it’s of help to others reaching students for Christ.

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